April 2015 From The Pastor

An Ethic Of Life… And Death… And Life…

 

It is absolutely wonderful the way those of us who live in northern climes break out into joyous song the first day we have a really gorgeous day after months of cold cloudy snow-laden days. There is a funny meme (photo or illustration with a caption) that shows what 40-degree weather looks like in the south or pacific west parts of the U.S. e6806f1ddecdea279c40a64ee8b4b83eand what 40-degree weather looks like in Cleveland. The former showing people with heavy coats bordered with fur-lined hoods, wearing knee-high snow boots… the latter showing folks wearing shorts, Hawaiian shirts, and flip-flops! LOL! It’s all relative, right?!?

The ancients would often express this move from winter to spring as the earth coming back from the dead. Without really understanding the intricate understandings we have of the earth’s rotation around the sun, they could only make sense of it in bold and tangible terms they could comprehend. The earth doesn’t die, although many things like plants and insects and some animals do die in winter. Many things only look like they die – they become barren, brittle, and drab – but, in fact, are only in hibernation or are dormant, with their inner biological systems recalibrating for a new day, a new burst of energy.

What this reminded me of is that nature, and the Christian faith, very much have a place for death in the natural cycles of life. And I don’t simply mean death in the horrible, tragic, mournful way. I think there is a natural and good place in our world and faith for death. I get very confused when people talk about the Bible having an “ethic of life” when it contains so many examples of good deaths, necessary deaths, natural deaths.

EXPULSION FROM PARADISE, 1891 Franz von Stuck 19th Century German

EXPULSION FROM PARADISE, 1891
Franz von Stuck
19th Century
German

After our Mid-Week Bible Study on the Adam and Eve story, I am even more convinced that the expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the declaration that humans would eventually die was not a curse, but an acknowledgement that we were finally allowed to mature, to grow up, to see life more from God’s vantage point, with all of the complexities, paradoxes, and unanswered questions that rest on the divine heart and mind. If death is always bad, why do bad people often live the longest and good people die young, whether it’s in the Bible, our experience, or Billy Joel songs?

Of course, the ultimate example of this is the death of Jesus, certainly a death offered for a very good cause, even if it might not be considered a “good death.” Jesus death at the hands of the principalities and powers of the world – political, social, religious – was a means for God to show how Ultimate Love responds to ultimate hate, how God understood the pain of our human existence so much that God was willing to die so that we would know that the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all didn’t just understand it intellectually, but experienced this life/death in its full-body totality.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there, and it never really ends with death ever, because God sees the larger picture, the bigger cycles, the greater good. Jesus resurrection on Easter declared that while death may have it’s rightful place in this existence, so does life, and both have meaning and purpose and divine presence. The Apostle Paul said it best, “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”

FlowersInSnowSo as we go through this world and death happens, as well as endings, completions, and conclusions, let us mourn them, surely, but let us never stop there nor think that they are always bad or negative. God is present in all things and infuses divine significance to even the saddest moments of our lives. We know this, because Good Friday was not the end of the story. Resurrection was right around the corner. When endings occur and death happens, let us put on our bright flower-laden shirts and blouses, dig up the sandals and flip flops, knowing full well new life will once again, and soon, be made real!

 

Pastor Allen

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